Last month for Tom’s birthday, we headed to The Cotswolds Distillery, based in Stourton near Shipston on Stour, for the launch of Ian Buxton’s new book,’101 Gins to try before you die’. Despite the arable farming land that dominates the Cotswolds making it perfect gin-country, it would appear that The Cotswolds Distillery is the first to produce ‘Mother’s ruin’ in the area. And its number 29 in Buxton’s book, so that’s one we can tick off!
As Buxton described, gin is experiencing a fashionable comeback lead by the likes of Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick’s with their snazzy bottles and crisp flavours, throwing off their ‘respectable, golf club, middle aged, middle class‘ reputation. Now there are over 500 different gins available world wide.
The Cotswolds Distillery was set up by ex-financier, City boy Daniel Szor. His vision was to create a whiskey distillery using Cotswold barley. But as Daniel described “great idea, tough on cash flow”, so whilst the whiskey slumbers in bourbon, sherry and wine casks out back, Szor also added gin to the line up. With a young (and quite handsome) team of distillers, armed with actual qualifications (who knew?!), The Cotswolds Distillery is the perfect example of the craft distilling gin movement.
Gin is made from high strength pure distilled spirits, normally from grain (wheat in the case of The Cotswolds Distillery). In the case of London Dry Gin, the best known style, the neutral spirit is re distilled in the presence of botanicals to give it flavour. ‘London’ simply describes the style of gin, and is not a protected location-designated label, say like ‘Cheddar’ or ‘Champagne’.
A lot of work went in to finding the distinctive flavour combination of The Cotswold Distillery’s Gin. The three distillers created a botanical taste library of over 100 flavours before settling on their top three creations. The final recipes where then blind tasted by expert panellists who settled on the overall winner – Alex, our distiller, walked us through the tasting notes of his award winning gin.
The Cotswolds Distillery produces a London dry style and macerates pure wheat spirit overnight with juniper (standard base for many gins), coriander and angelica root – this allows the flavours to fully infuse. They then add a unique botanical mix of Cotswolds lavender from nearby Snowshill and bay leaf, fresh grapefruit and lime peel, black pepper and cardamom into their copper Holstein still for distillation before finishing with naturally refined Cotswold water. And as the marketing literature describes, ‘The result is a classic – well-balanced juniper led gin with crisp citrus and spice.’
The other interesting thing about the Distillery’s gin is that it is not chill filtered. This means that there might be a slight cloudiness when the gin is served with ice but it does mean that is has a ‘smooth, rounded mouth feel’ to borrow Buxton’s words. Tom and I agreed that after comparing Distillery’s gin against three other tasters we could certainly tell the difference, registering the reassuringly thicker spirit slipping down our throats. We will also never go back to buying Schweppes tonic, if you buy a nice gin, why buy cheap tonic – that’s us told! We’ve since celebrated our tasting tour with the rather tasty Gin Faisan cocktail.
The Cotswolds Distillery was recently voted by the Telegraph as one top distilleries in the country to visit and tours run most days at 11am and 2pm. Advance booking is essential.
Or even better, the team have launched their ‘Wanted- Cotswolds Gin!’ campaign aimed at securing a listing for their gin in Waitrose. The team are committed to selling their fine spirit through local suppliers and independent retailers, but in reality, most alcohol in UK is sold through supermarkets. Waitrose with their commitment to quality produce would make a great partner – so they’d like to get their attention through this online petition! Why not head over to sign up and in return get a voucher for a tour and tasting! (Solid!) http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/wanted-cotswolds-gin.html
Things to know
- Visit http://www.cotswoldsdistillery.com/ to book tours online. Advance booking is essential.
- Ian’s book – which is a good read for Gin lovers – is available via Amazon.